The Counselor of Education of the Basque Government and President of Ikerbasque Cristina Uriarte chaired this morning the awards ceremony to three women who develop their research in the Basque Country: María Isabel Arriortua, Aitziber Lopez-Cortajarena and Maia García Vegniory. The event was also attended by Fernando Cossío, scientific director of Ikerbasque, as well as the assistance of heads of universities, research centers and technology centers of Euskadi.
This is the first edition of the awards to women researchers organized by Ikerbasque, and three women at different stages of their scientific career have been awarded: a whole scientific trajectory, the leadership in a field of research and an outstanding contribution of a young researcher.
The recognition of the entire research career has been for María Isabel Arriortua (1950). Professor of Crystallography and Mineralogy at the UPV/EHU since 1992, she was the first full professor at the UPV/EHU formed at the university and one of the first women to obtain a chair there. She created the IMaCris/MaKrisI research group and has been a pioneer in multifunctional systems research with applications in the field of environment or energy. In 2010 she received the 2010 Euskadi Research Prize in the category of Science and Technology and in 2012 she was appointed a full member of the Academy of Sciences, Arts and Basque Literature (Jakiunde).
Aitziber López-Cortajarena (1974) has been recognized for her leadership in the field of protein engineering. After a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the UPV/EHU, she moved to Yale University, where she worked for seven years on the design, structure and function of proteins. In 2011 she decided to return to Europe, and established her research group at IMDEA-Nanoscience, Madrid, to work on the design of proteins aimed at the generation of biofunctional nanostructures. In 2016, she joined CIC biomaGUNE as Ikerbasque Research Professor to lead the Biomolecular Nanotechnology group, for which she has one of the most prestigious research grants: an ERC-Consolidator Grant.
Finally, Maia Garcia Vergniory (1978) has been recognized for her outstanding contribution to the field of topological materials. She received her Ph.D. in Physics from condensed matter at the UPV/EHU. Later she worked at the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics and made a postdoctoral stay at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the United States. Currently, she develops her research on topological materials in the DIPC as Ikerbasque Researcher. In 2017 she won the L'Oreal-Unesco prize for Women in Science, and in 2018 she was part of the QUO 2018 science selection.
In order to select the recognized researchers, Ikerbasque has carried out an analysis of the scientific production data and the last outstanding contributions of more than 300 researchers from Euskadi. The final selection was in charge of a Delegate Commission of the Board of Ikerbasque, validated by the Scientific Committee of the Foundation.
In 2018 Ikerbasque developed an equality plan for women and men, following the methodology proposed by Emakunde. As a result of this process and with the aim of advancing on the path towards equality, 7 actions were proposed, among which was the recognition of women researchers.
Ikerbasque tries with these measures to reverse the gender stereotypes that affect many women researchers leaving their scientific careers in the early stages, and who are often invisible to their male colleagues. Therefore, the main objective of this action is to highlight the careers of brilliant women researchers, recognize their contribution to science and that in this way they can serve as a model for future generations.